The Dean's Listby Jon Hassler
Leland Edwards, a piano-playing fisherman and English professor, has become dean of Rookery State College in Minnesota. With this title comes the daunting task of saving his beloved campus from diminished enrollment, hockey thuggery, and its ignoble associations with Paul Bunyan. So when the most famous poet in America agrees to come to Rookery, Leland hopes that his… See more details below
Leland Edwards, a piano-playing fisherman and English professor, has become dean of Rookery State College in Minnesota. With this title comes the daunting task of saving his beloved campus from diminished enrollment, hockey thuggery, and its ignoble associations with Paul Bunyan. So when the most famous poet in America agrees to come to Rookery, Leland hopes that his reading will put Rookery State on the literary map.
But when he arrives, the poet is more and less than what Leland expectedand their relationship leads Leland on a wild ride that will compel him to harbor a fugitive, stand up to his domineering mother, and finally make peace with his brief attempt at love and the tragedy that ensued. . . .
The story is once again set in the academic hinterland of Rookery State College. It's 25 years later (1994), and the focus is now on the professional and personal crises stoically endured by Leland Edwards, who at 58 still lives with his octogenarian mother "Lolly" (the host of a popular call-in radio show) and still remembers with more than affection his ex-wife Sally and the son they lost in childhood many years earlier. This all sounds depressing, and there's no doubt that the novel exhibits too many characters burdened by what one of them calls his "overload of worries." But Hassler's trademark affectionate humor is manifest throughout, as Leland deals with neurotic students and eccentric relatives, a Machiavellian hockey coach, a dim-witted college president (who thinks the legendary Paul Bunyan is a Rookery graduate), a sexual harassment charge brought against him by a disturbed woman, and, centrally, the campus visit of a real Rookery alumnus, celebrated poet Richard Falconwho is himself besieged by the IRS, a publisher's lawsuit, and assorted other demons. Hassler weaves these complicated materials (and others) together beautifully. After a hundred pages or so, we realize we've become acquainted with an amazing number of characters, most of whose personalities are rendered in distinctive detail, even when they're only walk-ons. Flashbacks to Leland's marriage and bereavement, and to his days as a jazz pianist with the cheerfully embattled Icejam Quintet (whose other members all eventually reappear here), are expertly blended with present action. And Hassler's creation of the poems of Richard Falconwho's a kind of amalgam of Robert Frost and Edwin Arlington Robinsonis remarkably skillful.
Enormously readable, as sentimental as one might wish it to be: another dependable charmer from one of our most likable and entertaining novelists.
Meet the Author
Jon Hassler was born in Minneapolis in 1933. He received degrees from St. John's University in Minnesota, where he is now Regent's Professor. Jon Hassler is also the author of eight other widely acclaimed novels: Staggerford, Simon's Night, The Love Hunter, A Green Journey, Grand Opening, North of Hope, Dear James, and Rookery Blues.
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